Chechnya war comes to Boston —or not?
Commentary on the Boston attacks is making for some strange permutations. Voices on the left are seeking to play down jihadist involvement in the Chechen struggle—or to portray it as the result of US intrigues, with the obvious analogy to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda itself. Michael Moore's website sports a piece by FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley entitled "Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons," calling out figures such as Richard Perle for backing an "American Committee for Peace in Chechnya" as a lobby for the armed struggle against Russia—the name later "sanitized" to the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.
Meanwhile, the right of course plays up the jihadist threat in the Caucasus. But this reveals a divide between the Cold War paleocon right and the neocon right that came of age in the Global War on Terrorism. According to PowerBase wiki, one predictable member of the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus is Richard Pipes, Russophobe battle-axe of the beltway elite. His son, professional Islamophobe Daniel Pipes, is in an equivocal position. He plays up the generic Islamic menace angle, but not the Chechen one. Thanking Big Brother for the ubiquitous surveillance that snared the suspects, he warns that those conniving Muslims have less than spiritual reasons to hide their faces: "Boston Bombing Lesson: Ban Niqabs and Burqas." But nothing about al-Qaeda in Chechnya. Contrast his stance on Syria, where he is so afraid of al-Qaeda that he urges: "Support Assad."
The more reliably neocon American Enterprise Institute's Leon Aron looks at the North Caucasus and warns of "the region's deep ties with al-Qaeda." The very neocon Jewish Policy Center summarily dismisses the notion that people like the Tsarnaev brothers are "lone wolves," insisting that "All Terrorism is Connected." Fox News tells us: "Before Boston, warning signs Chechen extremists were plotting beyond Russia":
Of particular interest is a group formed in 2007 called the Caucasus Emirate, led by Doku Umarov. Two sources tell Fox News that investigators are exploring potential links between Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect who died in a shootout early Friday in Boston, and the group -- though the organization has publicly distanced itself from the plot. Fox News is told that the Caucasus Emirate, designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2011, is one of several groups being investigated.
Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for a string of terror attacks in Russia. Conserva-blogger Ruth King seems to have established a—very, very tenuous—link between the Tsarnaev borthers and Umarov's network:
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, linked his YouTube page to another video entitled "The Emergence of Prophecy:The Black Flags From Khorasan." The video, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, was reported in October 2011. It was sent by a terrorist group from the Afghan-Pakistan region, identified as the "Caucasus Mujahideen in Khorasan, to their 'brothers' in the Islamic Caucasus Emirate and their emir, Doku Umarov."
So far, however, there is no direct information linking the North Caucasus to the attack in Boston; armed groups in the region, including the Dagestani branch of the so-called Caucasus Emirate—the jihadist network in the North Caucasus headed by Chechen warlord Doku Umarov—issued a formal statement denying any connection to the Tsarnaev brothers. The jihadists claimed instead that the brothers were pawns in an elaborate attempt by Russian security services to turn American opinion against the North Caucasus underground and against Muslims more generally. That might be far-fetched, but it would hardly be the line of argument the Emirate would pursue if it were suddenly using American operatives to expand attacks outside of Russia. The logical thing would have been for the Emirate to claim responsibility.
Yes, we have also noted this conspiracy theory. The stance of Moscow's state-controlled Russia Today provides an inevitable irony. Because it is an "anti-America" outlet, RT is very cozy with the left in the West—the network even made the astute move of giving Julian Assange his own show. But of course RT has got to toe Kremlin line on Chechnya—which puts them in line with the neocons! Writes RT's Sergey Strokan in a piece entitled "Hear no evil see no evil: Boston awakens sleeping US to Chechen danger":
It took...an attack in the shape of the Boston bombings for many Americans to discover that Chechen militants—those, who are attacking innocent civilians, can be something other than "rebels" or "freedom fighters."
And while terrorism knows no nationality, Chechen militants, regardless of whether they operate in Russia or America, deserve the word "terrorists."
The investigation into the Boston attack is still in its infancy, with no credible proof in the public domain linking the two Boston attackers to the Islamist terrorist movement thousands of miles away... The only fact so far which may grow into a bigger story is that in 2011 the Russian government approached the FBI about one of the brothers Tamerlan Tsarnayev, requesting a check on his contacts. At that time the Russians said Tamerlan Tsarnayev "was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups."
Al-Qaeda appeared as a result of Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979. Moscow resorted to the move fearing that Afghanistan would become a zone of US influence. Washington tried hard to prompt the USSR to intervene in Afghanistan, wanting its geopolitical rival to sink in the mire of a war that was impossible to win. Striving to harm on [sic] another, we harmed ourselves... That is why after the tragedy in Boston I cannot but keep wondering whether Russian-US relations will change for the better? Will the US leadership finally get over "the Richard Pipes syndrome", the hidden preconception that they are countering "bad" terrorism whereas Russia is fighting "good" terrorism? Or are some preconceptions so strong that they do not disappear, even if their own citizens' blood is shed?
Then there are the ironies of nomenclature which are sure to cause cognitive collisions. In the US, "Caucasian" is a synonym for "white"—rooted in the erroneous idea that the original Indo-European homeland was in the Caucasus (it is now thought to have been on the steppes, north of the mountains). In Russia, a "Caucasian" is someone from the Caucasus—a group stigmatized as insufficiently white. You know, they are swarthy, Muslim, traitors during the long wars with the Turks, shiftless shirkers who smell of onions and garlic... And the popular pejorative for them is (you guessed it) "black."
And what is going on with 19-year-old, gravely wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? The Boston Herald and Washington Post tell us he has not been formally charged with "terrorism," but with using a "weapon of mass destruction." OK, it may be for the best that the Justice Department is avoiding the loaded T-word (inevitably conjuring al-Qaeda connections, which may or may not exist)—but isn't there something perverse about calling devices improvised from pressure cookers "weapons of mass destruction"? This is an egregious Orwellian abuse of the English language that we have called out again and again and again and again and again and again. And we will point out that it hasn't only been used in cases against accused jihadists, but also against radical right rednecks.
Far worse are the claims also appearing on 21st Century Wire that the attacks didn't happen, that the blasts were mere "flash powder" and the amputees were all "actors" in a photo-shopped scam by unnamed conspirators. Vulturecrap of the lowest order.